The Toll of Tariffs: Protectionism, Education and Fertility in Late 19th Century France

50 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2018

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 2018

Abstract

This paper examines a novel negative impact of trade tariffs and the costs they induce by documenting how protectionism reversed the long-term improvements in education and the fertility transition that were well under way in late 19th-century France. The Méline tariff, a tariff on cereals introduced in 1892, was a major protectionist shock that shifted relative prices in favor of agriculture and away from industry. In a context in which the latter was more intensive in skills than agriculture, the tariff reduced the relative return to education, which in turn affected parents’ decisions about the quantity and quality of children. We use regional differences in the importance of cereal production in the local economy to estimate the impact of the tariff. Our findings indicate that the tariff reduced enrollment in primary education and increased birthrates and fertility. The magnitude of these effects was substantial. In regions with average shares of employment in cereal production, the tariff offset the (downward) trend in birthrates for 13 years; in those with the highest cereal employment shares, there was a delay of up to 22 years.

Keywords: Education, fertility, protectionism, unified growth theory, France

JEL Classification: J13, N33, O15

Suggested Citation

Bignon, Vincent and García-Peñalosa, Cecilia, The Toll of Tariffs: Protectionism, Education and Fertility in Late 19th Century France (August 2018). Banque de France Working Paper No. WP #690, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3236647 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3236647

Vincent Bignon (Contact Author)

Banque de France ( email )

DGEI 49-1430
31 rue Croix des Petits Champs
Paris, 75001
France
+33142924330 (Phone)

Cecilia García-Peñalosa

Aix-Marseille University ( email )

3 Avenue Robert Schuman
3 Avenue Robert Schuman,
Aix-en-Provence, 13628
France

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